Phil Mickelson’s Saudi Arabia comments prove costly as sponsors cut ties with embattled golfer

Rarely do groups of the most important people run away from Phil Mickelson. The gregarious 51-year-old has always been a magnet for a diverse array of both the rich and powerful who fund the game, as well as the down-to-earth and normal who flock to see it. After his comments about the Saudi Arabian government and the Super Golf League emerged last week, however, he finds himself as perhaps the loneliest man in the entire sport.

First, KPMG announced they were cutting ties with Lefty. Workday, Amstel and even Callaway followed in their footsteps. The statements released by these companies were similar. This one from Heineken, Amstel’s parent company, is emblematic of all of them:

“We made the decision to go our separate ways and end Amstel Light’s partnership with Phil Mickelson,” the spokesperson said. “We wish him all the best.”

Callaway, of course, is the most notable one (although almost certainly not the most lucrative). And while it has temporarily suspended its sponsorship of Mickelson, it left room for a reunification at some point in the future.

“Callaway does not condone Phil Mickelson’s comments and we were very disappointed in his choice of words – they in no way reflect our values or what we stand for as a company,” the statement read. “Phil has since apologized and we know he regrets how he handled recent events. We recognize his desire to take some time away from the game and respect that decision. At this time, we have agreed to pause our partnership and will re-evaluate our ongoing relationship at a later date.”

On Friday, a story emerged that Mickelson was also out as the host of the American Express, the PGA Tour’s annual stop in Palm Springs. From the Palm Springs Desert Sun:

The PGA Tour confirmed to The Desert Sun on Saturday that Mickelson, who served as tournament host since 2020, will not return to that role in 2023. In addition, the  Mickelson Foundation, formed in 2019 specifically to be the charitable arm of the tournament, will no longer be part of the event, the tour confirmed. The foundation’s contract with the tournament was to run through 2024.

Mickelson released a lengthy apology for his comments about the Saudi Arabians as well as the Super Golf League; he called the Saudis “scary mother*******” and acknowledged their murderous tendencies in an excerpt from Alan Shipnuck’s soon-to-be-released biography of Mickelson. In his apology, Mickelson called his comments “reckless” and said he believed they were off the record, but stood by his desires to improve the game of golf overall and issued no statement or apology to the PGA Tour. He also noted that he was going to step away from golf for a while.

It wasn’t enough to quell the damage that had been done and the high-profile folks who wanted out of their relationship with Mickelson. As Shipnuck pointed out on Twitter, it is perhaps a bit surprising that so many companies (including Callaway) would flee so quickly. Certainly, Mickelson’s comments were putrid, but his chief crime was trying to upend PGA Tour policies by leveraging a hostile government against them. That’s not great, but he also didn’t commit a crime.

The PGA Tour is powerful, though, and Mickelson — as this saga has proven — is not bigger than the entity under which he made his name. There are perhaps business relationships to be protected as it relates to the Tour that are more important and more enduring than one with a 51-year-old who has had one good week in the last two years.

Regardless, it’s odd to see Mickelson like this, alone and in the lurch. Normally when this happens on the course, we get something heroic, if not the result then at least the effort. Surely that’s coming out of this as well, and it will likely be as entertaining as ever.

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